In this interview James, founder of Sanctus, shares his journey with us, along with honest advice about what we can do to look after our mental health at work – whether we work for ourselves or someone else.
What is Sanctus all about?
We’re on a mission to change the perception of mental health and want to put the world’s first mental health gym on the high street one day.
How did you first become interested in mental health?
Through my own experience of poor mental health I suppose. I had a period in my life where I had pretty bad anxiety and then panic attacks. I didn’t really know what was going on and mainly blamed other things in my life for how I was feeling. I knew nothing about mental health and there wasn’t a space where I felt like I could talk about it.
So your life was on a different path before you discovered this calling?
Absolutely, I was a different person really. I was all about image and material things, very closed off too. Things are really different now.
How did you make the transition into working for yourself?
Sanctus started as mentalhealthinstartups.com and I started writing about mental health as a passion project. Crazy story but a guy I knew liked what I was doing and saw I was passionate, so him and my boss gave me some money to get it started.
Did you have to overcome any specific difficulties to get to where you are today?
I think there have been difficulties every day really. The biggest thing I’m trying to overcome is the negative perception around mental health and our entire mission is to transform that. Personally, the biggest difficulty is just staying true to who you are and what your mission is, I try not to waver from that.
Sanctus has been a real success so far! How do you manage the day-to-day stresses that come with running your own business – especially as you need to be an example to your clients and followers?
Yeah, it’s really important. I’ve gotten to a low point in my life before and I don’t really want to get back there again if I can help it. The biggest thing for me has been creating space in my life for me to be open and vulnerable. Sometimes this is coaching/therapy or other times it’s journalling/meditation, but for me it’s really important to have space where you can just share what’s really going on. It’s also been massive for me to have other people in my life that I feel like I can really share with.
Thanks for sharing that. What advice would you give to someone wanting to succeed in working for themselves?
Start with why. Too many people want to be an entrepreneur because they think it’s cool and it’s the golden ticket to freedom. It’s not. Ask yourself why you want to work for yourself and, most importantly, why you want to work on whatever it is specifically. Having that north star and core purpose is the most important thing, I think.
What advice would you give to employees who want to succeed working for someone else without burning out?
Find someone/somewhere you feel comfortable opening up and talking about your feelings. Oh, and do that before you feel burned out!
And finally, what can companies do to ensure their staff have the best environment in which to thrive?
Give people permission to be vulnerable. Vulnerability leads to growth so if people feel like they can talk about their challenges and feelings then they will grow as individuals.
James is the co-founder of Sanctus, an organisation which aims to change our perception of mental health by making it relatable, accessible and aspirational; not dark, depressing and expensive. They are doing this through writing and speaking openly about mental health, running events and meetups, and working with businesses to create an open environment where staff can speak honestly and without judgement. Want to follow their progress?